Friday, October 30, 2020

Put on Your Parkas to Read this Book...

Life in a Frozen World: Wildlife of Antarctica 
by Mary Batten; illus by Thomas Gonzalez
40 pages; ages 6-10
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2020

Antarctica is the coldest, driest place on Earth, writes Mary Batten. Though it is covered with ice, Antarctica is the largest desert on our planet. That’s because it never rains there and when it does snow, that snow becomes part of the ice sheet.

“Yet in this extreme environment, life thrives,” Batten writes. Beginning at the bottom of the food chain – with algae and krill – she shows how life has adapted to that frozen continent. Algae, for example, have adapted to the low light conditions below the sea ice. And those teeny tiny krill, each no larger than a thumb, swarm in numbers so high that they can be seen from space. They are keystone species, Batten explains, because they play a key role in Antarctica’s food chains.

Scientists from all over the world are studying Antarctica to learn how climate is threatening the habitats and creatures living there. They are also studying how Antarctica affects weather, ocean currents, and sea levels on our planet. 

Back matter includes a map of Antarctica, some fast facts, a glossary, and some resources for curious naturalists. Batten also includes an author’s note about her work with the Cousteau Society and why the chaos of a warming climate is such a critical issue for our future.

On the outside, this looks like any other picture book. But open it up and you find it’s an adventure that appeals to older kids. Though a bit text-dense for bedtime reading,  I feel this illustrated book is a perfect fit for teachers and homeschooling families looking for up-to-date, authoritative information about Antarctica. It hits the shelves in November – a perfect month for an adventure into ice and cold.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Explore Outdoors~ I found Orange Things!


Last week's challenge was to search for orange things. I found plenty of orange leaves, both on the trees and on the ground, and a patch of marigolds that somehow escaped the freeze. And I found these guys: milkweed bugs. 

They look reddish or orange, with black markings. The adults have wings; the nymphs don't. Yet. Milkweed bugs have piercing mouthparts and snack on milkweed pods, stems, and even seeds - though I think they leave the fluff for the mice and birds to use as nesting material. 

I managed to snag a few seeds before the bugs took over... and planted them in my garden so next summer I can have more milkweed! More monarchs! And, in late fall, more milkweed bugs!

If there are milkweed plants growing near you, check out the pods and stems for milkweed bugs.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Exploring a Rainforest

Over and Under the Rainforest 
by Kate Messner; illus. by Christopher Silas Neal
48 pages; ages 5-8
Chronicle, 2020

theme: ecosystem, rainforest, exploring

Into the rainforest we hike, through slivers of sunlight and dripping-wet leaves.

Hundreds of plants and animals make their homes in the tropical rainforest. But up, up, up – high in the canopy there is another world. This book takes us on a hike through a Costa Rican rainforest – clambering up rocks, walking high on bridges through the canopy over the course of a day. We meet bats and agoutis, butterflies and sloths. Parrot snakes hunt frogs and howler monkeys fill the air with their exuberant hoots and hollers.

What I like about this book: For those of us who can’t get to a rainforest, this is a great way to explore it. Back matter contains more details about the animals along with some suggested books and resources to check out. And Kate tells a wonderful tale of how this book came to be.

Beyond the Books:
Find out more about Costa Rican rainforest animals here.

Go on a virtual rainforest tour (in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru) here. It’s 20 minutes of walking and climbing, so pack a snack.

If you could be a rainforest animal, what would you be? Use a paper plate and markers to create an animal mask. 

Imagine you live high in the trees. Write down some of the advantages of living high in the leafy canopy. Can you think of any problems?

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Orange Things

 This is the season of orange things: pumpkins, falling leaves ... even late-blooming marigolds in my garden.

This month, go on a search for orange things. 

  • What do you find? 
  • Observe from a distance. 
  • Observe close-up. 
  • What do you notice? 
  • How many different colors of orange do you find? 
  • Are your orange things plants? Animals? Fungi?

Friday, October 16, 2020

Exploring a Prairie

Today we're heading off to explore the Prairie. Just the word "prairie" sounds expansive and filled with tall grasses and flowers. 

Plant a Pocket of Prairie 
by Phyllis Root; illus. by Betsy Bowen 
40 pages; ages 5-8
U of Minnesota Press, 2014 

theme: ecosystem, plants, ecology

 Once prairie stretched for thousands of miles, an ocean of flowers and grasses, a sea of sky ….

…and a home for bison, burrowing owls, and butterflies. Almost all of the prairie is gone, but you could see what it might be like if you planted a bit of it in your backyard. Or balcony. Or along the street.

Phyllis Root describes what seeds you could sow, and the butterflies and birds and other animals that might come to visit. And if your tiny pocket garden should spread and grow bigger… who knows what might happen!

What I like about this book: Betsy Bowen’s illustrations are so airy that they capture the feeling of prairie. And there is plenty of back matter! There’s more about each plant and animal featured in the book – plus directions for planting a pocket garden of prairie plants. For explorers, there’s a list of places where you can find bits of preserved and/or restored prairie.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about prairies. Check out this post to discover more about plants and animals living on the prairie. 

Go on a prairie field trip. If there’s no prairie nearby, try a virtual field trip. Here are two: Tucker Prairie in Missouri, and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. Don’t forget to pack a lunch.

Pocket gardens get their name because they are small
. But what if you planted a garden in an actual pocket? If you've got a worn pair of jeans, the back pockets make fun hanging pots.

Looking for more books about prairie plants and animals? Check out these reviews here and here.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Some Bugs Hide

 Last week we were out walking and found a mantid on the road. It was bright green against the oil-and-stone, and easy to see. I love mantids; their triangular faces, spiky legs, and the way they blend into their environment.

After admiring her beauty, we put her down in the grasses off the edge of the road. Can you find our mantid?

Check out this page from the University of Kentucky for more info and photos of mantids. 

This week, head outside and look for signs of insects. You might discover a mantid egg mass, a goldenrod gall, mud wasp nests... admire, take photos, but let them be.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Everything is Connected

This month I’m diving into books about Earth’s ecosystems, starting with this one…

Biomes: Discover the Earth’s Ecosystems with Environmental Science Activities for Kids
by Donna Latham ; illus by Tim Casteel
128 pages; ages 9-13
Nomad Press, 2019

A biome is a life zone, with a distinctive climate and geology, specific water resources, and its own biodiversity. Some scientists say there are five biomes, others list six. Author Donna Latham presents nine: coniferous forest, deciduous forest, tropical rainforest, desert, mountains, temperate grassland, tropical savanna, tundra, and ocean. Regardless of how you sort them, the big point is that they are all connected, and a disaster that takes place in one biome (such as an oil spill) often affects other biomes.

What I like about this book: Each chapter presents a biome and the ecosystems within that biome. Readers get into soils, food chains, and plant and animal adaptations. There are fun sidebars with tidbits, QR codes to links (all links are listed at the back), and plenty of hands-on stuff to explore. Experiment with erosion, study the impact of salt on seed germination, make a terrarium, and explore your home turf. Oh yeah – and make sure to keep a notebook like a scientist does.

There are also photos and (yay!) comics. The tone is fun and informal while being informational. Back matter contains a glossary and metric conversion chart. This is a great “text” for kids who want to learn at home this fall and winter.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Deadheads


What is happening to the flowers? Mine have gone to seed. Sometimes birds eat the seeds, and sometimes the seeds fall to the ground and sprout in the spring.

Take a close look at flower seedheads this week. You are sure to discover beauty, and maybe - if the birds haven't beaten you - some seeds. Will those seeds grow if you plant them? Good question! Some seeds require a period of cold weather before they will germinate.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Fun New Series on Animal Adaptations

 theme: animals, nature, poetry

Let’s face it: animals are cool! And most kids I know love to read about animals. What’s even better than a book about animals is a whole series of books about strange and wonderful animal adaptations. 

by Laura Perdew; illus by Katie Mazeika
32 pages; ages 5-8
Nomad, 2020

Laura Perdew has written a whole bunch of books – well, at least five – about animals and their unique adaptations. They are fun and breezy, and a perfect way to introduce young children to the different classes of vertebrate animals: reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish.

Did you know that some fish have antifreeze and that archerfish shoot their prey? That water-holding frogs can stay buried for two years? Perdew introduces readers to unsung heroes of the animal world: star-nose moles, blue-footed boobies, and thorny devil lizards. She sings the praises of salamander slime and whale earwax.

What I like about these books: In addition to highlighting animals and their adaptations, Perdew begins each book with a poem. There’s an acrostic, a limerick, haiku, cinquain, and free verse. Back matter for each book includes a glossary and activity that helps kids (and anyone else) learn more about the group of animals.

Beyond the Books:

Write some animal poetry. It could be a poem about one kind of animal, or about a group of animals. Here's a resource for poetry forms.

Observe animals in your neighborhood – or, in the winter, in a pet store. Try to find an animal from each class: mammal, fish, bird, amphibian, reptile. Draw a picture of your animals. What do you notice about them?

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies are provided by the publisher.